Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Movie Review: Cold Sweat (1970)


A botched thriller that sputters in fits and starts, Cold Sweat never gets anywhere. A capable cast is wasted in a mediocre script that rarely convinces, although one prolonged car chase momentarily relieves the tedium.

In the south of France, former American serviceman Joe Moran (Charles Bronson) lives a quiet life running a fishing boat for tourists. Moran has a dark past that he has kept hidden even from his wife Fabienne (Liv Ullman). But his history as an escaped convict from a military prison catches up with him when the men he abandoned during his getaway show up for revenge. Captain Ross (James Mason), Katanga (Jean Topart) and Vermont (Michel Constantin) served a long stint behind bars in Germany after Moran sped off in their escape vehicle, and now they want payback including transportation on Moran's boat to conclude a shady drug deal.

Ross has also arranged for a woman called Moira (Jill Ireland) to be the mule carrying a large amount of money needed for the drug exchange. Moran is able to gain an advantage over Ross by seizing Moira and stashing her in a secluded shack, but in return Ross grabs Fabienne and her young daughter as hostages to force Moran's cooperation. With tensions brewing between Ross and Katanga, the bullets fly as Moran tries to save his family and terminate the evil doers.

The high-revving car chase scene has Moran paradoxically rushing to get a doctor to the aid of one of the bad guys who has been shot and is bleeding to death. The bright red Opel Commodore GS gets to flex plenty of muscles screeching its way on (and off) the country roads of southern France, chased by a couple of French motorcycle policemen.

Good as the chase is, and director Terence Young puts all his James Bond-honed skills into capturing barely contained kinetic energy, it too is ultimately bungled. Moran pulls off remarkable stunts to theoretically gain huge advantages in time and space over his pursuers, but no matter what he does, the two motorcycles serenely and effortlessly remain on his tail, undermining the credibility of the entire chase.

But Cold Sweat has much deeper problems, including James Mason sporting a ridiculous accent, Jill Ireland gate-crashing the movie primarily because she is the real-life Mrs. Bronson, and an unfathomable stand-off between Ross and Katanga that takes the focus away from Moran and completely disorients the narrative. Three screenwriters could not wrangle a cohesive script out of the Richard Matheson book Ride The Nightmare. The large, unexplained logic gaps include a Turkish drug boat that seems to wait on the open seas for eternity, and some remarkably quick recoveries by bad guys supposedly incapacitated by Moran.

There are some pretty shots of the French countryside, and Young does extract some early tension as Moran's life starts to unravel with the arrival of unwelcome visitors from his past. Charles Bronson does his best to create an engaging central character, and Liv Ullman is several notches above the material, but finally, and sadly, neither can do much to save the movie. Cold Sweat leaves behind an unsightly damp stain.






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